The new album from Hillsong Church London, a growing congregation of around 2000 people that was planted as a UK outreach by the Australian church, combines those two musical heritages for the first time.
Shout God's Fame, then, stands as at an interesting musical intersection. The influence of the Hillsong Australia church is evident in the focus on melody and big, powerful choruses. At the same time, much of Shout God's Fame sounds more like a Vineyard UK project, with experimental rock elements making their way into the project (a little bit of Robbie Williams on "Gonna Be All Right") at times as well. There are a lot of similarities to the Hillsong's United live albums, but even those comparisons only go so far. The mix here, for instance, really put the guitar and percussion more in the fore and pulls the lead vocals back a little bit, which gives the album a feel that is distinctly different from a regular Hillsongs project. The team of lead vocalists also has a much more youthful sound to their voices; no one person (a la Darlene Zschech) dominates the album's lead worship duties.
The songs themselves are solid. "Shout Your Fame" opens the record and has the same big, guitar-driven energy of recent Hillsong anthems like "King of Majesty" and "Best Friend." "My God" follows and takes it all even a notch higher - the chorus is incredibly infectious; two songs in you can already tell that this project is going to be a winner. The afore mentioned "Gonna Be All Right" is a little simplistic on its lyric though, musically, it does have an interesting sound. "You're Here With Me" is one of the tracks that sounds like it could've been a Vineyard song, in all of the right ways, though the production is clearly born of a Hillsongs heritage. "I Will Go," a song about obedience to the will of God, has an underlying Latin groove and a big sing-a-long chorus. "In You I Stand" is a solid rock-praise anthem celebrating our assurance of the faithfulness of God. The majority of the twelve tracks are original compositions. A cover of Delirious' "History Maker" is one exception - their interpretation is solid though it doesn't add anything overtly original to what we've already heard done with the song. A medley of Hillsong favorites, "For This Cause/Eagles Wings/Carry Me," is a nice addition and tribute to the church's heritage; the "Eagles Wings" section is particularly sweet to hear. Finally, "King of Majesty" closes the project, though a reprise of "Shout Your Fame" is the true closing piece.
The beauty of Shout God's Fame is that most fans of the Australian Hillsongs albums will also like what they hear here, but it is modern and youthful enough that even those who are not Hillsongs fans can definitely find something to embrace here. But it really does this talented group of musicians and worship leaders a disservice to focus too much on the Australian roots of the church - Shout God's Fame proves that the church in London has more than enough talent and credibility to be accepted and heard all on their own. It's an excellent debut album and, thus far, my favorite worship project of the year.